Madrid, Spain’s energetic capital, offers easy access to countless treasures
Madrid, located in the heart of Spain, is a sophisticated and energetic city on a grand scale.
Its cultural treasures, delectable food scene, worldclass shopping and walkability make it an ideal travel destination. Staying in one of the many accommodations near Puerta del Sol or Plaza Mayor — the two public squares that serve as the city’s beating heart — puts you a short walk from enough hotspots to fill a week.
If you want culture, check out the city’s 60-plus museums and galleries. At the top of the list is the Prado, one of Europe’s best art museums, which is bursting with masterpieces from greats such as Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Goya and El Greco.
The contemporary Reina Sofia gallery, where Pablo Picasso’s spectacular and powerful Guernica depicts the horror of war, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza’s collection featuring legends such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne and Rembrandt van Rijn, complete the stunning triumvirate — and all three galleries are just a few minutes apart and an easy walk from Puerta del Sol.
Not to be missed as well is the extravagant Royal Palace. With more than 3,000 rooms, the opulent site, which is now used for state ceremonies, offers a glimpse of what royal life was like.
If shopping is on the agenda, take a stroll along the stunning Gran Via boulevard to the Barrio de Salamanca, known as the Golden Mile. Both areas offer loads of designer shops and unique boutiques.
All that shopping can make you hungry, which isn’t a problem in a city where people traditionally eat five small meals a day. Culinary adventures abound, from Michelin-starred restaurants to historic eateries — including the world’s oldest restaurant — taverns, bars and markets. Because small plates are a staple, it’s easy to enjoy an amazing array of tastes in one day.
The city hits another gear in the evening as captivating groups of families and friends head out for a walk and a meal. Find a table in a plaza, order some tapas and a glass of sherry, wine or handcrafted vermouth, and sit back and watch. You never know what you will see. The nightlife goes into the wee hours, with clubs, theatres and bars delivering expansive entertainment options.
If a bit of quiet reflection sounds appealing, the city is also full of parks and green spaces, with the 125-hectare Retiro Park — a former royal park — offering a great break a short distance from Puerta del Sol.
And with the Atocha train station right in the core, it’s easy to head out of town for a day-trip to one of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites or Cities within an hour or so of the city.
For scenery on a grand scale, the jaw-dropping Villa of Aranjuez and San Lorenzo de El Escorial, both royal sites created in the mid-1500s, offer tastes of another era. Spain’s golden age is on display in Alcala de Henares, the home of Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes.
Segovia, a key outpost of the Roman Empire, features an impressive 15-kilometre aqueduct from the second century and an historic old quarter. Both have been declared World Heritage Sites.
On a larger scale, World Heritage Cities include Avila, whose impressive walls surround historic churches and Renaissance palaces, and Toledo, which displays countless monuments from the three cultures — Christians, Arabs and Jews — that lived together peacefully for centuries.
The capital of Spain, a capital of culture — Madrid offers many delights.
For information, visit www.spain.info.
The always husy Sran Via, with its expansive layout and grand huildings, is considered Madrid’s Broadway or Fifth Avenue.
Plaza Mayor is one of the top puhlic gathering spots in Madrid.
The 125-hectare Retiro Park is a great spot to relax.